Sign up for our daily Newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest news!

Subscribe I am already a subscriber

You are using software which is blocking our advertisements (adblocker).

As we provide the news for free, we are relying on revenues from our banners. So please disable your adblocker and reload the page to continue using this site.

Click here for a guide on disabling your adblocker.

Sign up for our daily Newsletter and stay up to date with all the latest news!

Subscribe I am already a subscriber
Hans Liekens, Sekoya:

"France and Belgium still uncharted territory for Sekoya berries"

With a selection of five blueberry varieties, the Sekoya® program now spans global cultivation in 18 countries across 10,000 hectares in both zero- and low-chill as well as mid- and high-chill environments. "We are eager to introduce a new variety in the late low chill segment for cultivation in areas including northern Morocco and Huelva for this time of year. This will ensure we have Sekoya berries of consistent quality available 52 weeks a year. Next week, we're going to review the selections, and the latest introduction won't be far behind," says Value Chain & Retail Manager Hans Liekens.

Hans Liekens and Anja Grueterich from Sekoya.

The demand for consistent quality is significant, according to the Belgian, who previously worked for Hessing and Chiquita. "Just last week, I bought a pack of Spanish blueberries at the supermarket. They cost a fair amount of money, but I had to throw half of them away. In my view, that's unacceptable in 2024. There's plenty of quality fruit available to satisfy consumer demand. The market could grow much faster if we all supplied consistently high-quality fruit." Supermarkets are increasingly recognizing this, according to the Value Chain and Retail Manager. "Following the UK's lead, more and more European supermarkets are working with positive and negative lists of varieties they want to sell or avoid. This is going to have a significant impact on the market."

The Spanish and Moroccan seasons have gone well, according to Hans. "In Spain, besides cultivation in Huelva, we're seeing more and more Sekoya berries being planted in other regions such as Valencia and La Mancha. The cooler nights there are actually ideal for blueberries, shifting the harvest period so that the seasons align more seamlessly. Previously, we had more peaks in supply and a quieter period after the Spanish season, but now we can transition smoothly to Serbian berries. In Morocco too, we saw many satisfied faces and the growers had excellent quality fruit this season."

With varieties like Sekoya Crunch, Grande, and Fiesta, Sekoya is gearing up for the high chill season, which roughly runs from early July to September. "This essentially includes all berries north of Paris, from the Netherlands to the United Kingdom, Ukraine, and Romania, and even in Chile, these high chill varieties are cultivated. Especially for cultivation in France and his home country, Belgium, Sekoya is still looking for growers to join the variety program. "I was almost tempted to start growing them myself, but it seems like an untapped opportunity to cultivate high-quality blueberries. Our varieties were developed in Oregon, where the climate is similar to France and Belgium. You don't even need to test the varieties. The whole thing is a no-brainer. The consumers are there, now we just need the growers," Hans explains.

Robust Varieties
"Besides the benefits of firmness, large size, flavor, appearance, and shelf life of the Sekoya berries, they also prove to be more robust against extreme weather conditions, whether it's drought or rain. Our Peruvian growers reported that despite challenges with El Niño, they suffered about 30% damage, whereas the damage to older varieties exceeded 50%. Also, in South Africa's Cape region, the Sekoya Pop variety withstood the heavy rains much better last season," Hans shares. "This highlights the urgent need for the introduction of new varieties. As for the high chill cultivation areas, the need for variety replacement is even more pressing. More and more supermarkets are putting old varieties on their negative list for being too soft and prone to rotting or molding, and thus, are no longer welcome in supermarkets."

"We are working hard on category management to further categorize the applications of blueberries. Think of separate categories for breakfast, snacking, and the organic assortment. They have managed this much better with products like tomatoes, carrots, and potatoes. We have a lot of work to do to help consumers choose the right berry for the right eating moment!"

For more information:
Hans Liekens
Tel: +32 477 531 529
[email protected]

Publication date: